The newly created Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee within the DBIA Northwest chapter hosted its first program on Wednesday, November 10, 2021. The committee partnered with the Portland International Airport Terminal Expansion project team to showcase how DEI was incorporated into the project and share best practices.

DBIA NW Regional President Katie Popolow (The Miller Hull Partnership) and DEI Co-chairs Herb Yamamoto (BIM Connection LLC) and Blanca Rodriguez (Integrus Architecture) kicked off the meeting with an overview of the DEI Committee’s goals for DBIA; first to create and share resources with current DBIA members on how to successfully incorporate diverse businesses into their design build projects, and second to generate awareness and provide opportunities to the diverse business community (such as disadvantaged, minority or women owned businesses) around how to successfully participate in design-build projects. Herb was joined by Anny Hsiao, Economic and Business Equity Manager at the Office of Governor Brown, then spoke to how the Minority Contractor Taskforce is generating momentum in connecting minority business with collaboration partners such as Hoffman, Skanska, Kiewit, and Howard S. Wright, to drive engagement on projects across the state of Oregon. DEI goals align and overlap with the design-build approach of engaging partners earlier in projects and having an overall inclusive mentality. Both collaboration partners and minority contractors are seeing the benefits of actively driving for more diversity, equity, and inclusion in design-build projects.

George Seaman, Project Manager from the Port of Portland, kicked off the presentation with an overview of the Portland International Airport Terminal Core Expansion which will invest close to $2 billion. George shared that the fundamental building block for driving DEI is getting leadership buy-in and commitment early. For this project the public project owner supported and defined DEI specific goals of 20% Small Business Entity participation with a subgoal of 8.5% by Minority Owned Businesses. Second, the owner intentionally selected a prime who “walks the DEI talk” which in this case was a Joint Venture between Hoffman and Skanska. Troy Slosser, Project Manager for the Hoffman Skanska JV, shared their specific approach to engaging small and minority owned businesses through outreach at Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs (OAME), National Association of Minority Contractors, Oregon Chapter (NAMC-Oregon), and Professional Business Development Group (PBDG) meetings. They also hosted lunch and learns to provide better understanding of scopes available on the project and made concerted efforts to get firms registered early to receive bid invitations. Finally, the owner and GC teams worked together to enable direct award of contracts under $200K, designate SBE and MBE only scopes of work, implement best value scoring, and drive a 20% SBE requirement into the contract language for all Tier 1 subcontractors.

Karen Egner, Workforce and SBE Coordinator for the Hoffman Skanska JV, shared at an even more granular level some of the challenges the project faced when it came to engaging small and minority owned businesses. Overcoming the stigmas of working with PDX and a big GC, breaking down the fears around such a “big and scary” project, battling the challenges of COVID and the crazy economy impacts to name just a few. On the flip side Karen and Nate McCoy, Executive Director for NAMC-Oregon, shared that the long schedule allowed the team to spread out opportunities, to define “right-sized” pieces of work and that having Subcontractor Default Insurance (SDI) in lieu of bonding and having OCIP in place worked towards overcoming some of the traditional barriers for smaller and minority owned businesses.

Overall, the team’s foresight, aligned goals and early efforts led to the project achieving the following DEI milestones: 20% SBE/MBE participation with 38% of SBE contracts being awarded to Minority Business Enterprises (79 SBE contracts issued out of a total 201). In addition, the workforce comprised 21% of work performed by apprentices, minority journeymen performed 21% of the work and females performed 11% of the work.

The presentation wrapped up with a robust Q&A session led by Jen Eckert (McKinstry) with promises of more to come from the DEI committee as they build out future DEI programs for the DBIA NW 2022 calendar.